Jenny did not want to be alone just then. She left her bag in her cabin and then went to the Disco; the one place on the ship she knew would still be open at such a late hour.
The instant the entered the noisy, crowded nightclub, Steve spotted her and rushed to greet, "I can't believe it! You're here. Alone. And without the sailor." He grinned. "Hey, it's because you realize you love me, right? So let's wake up the Captain and get married right now. What do you say?"'
She forced a small laugh. Steve was fun to be around since he'd replaced pressuring her with humor, but inside, she was crying. "I say I think you're crazy." He led her back to the booth where he had been sitting alone. After the waiter brought the stiff drink Steve sensed she needed, he discarded his mask of vivacity and bluntly asked, "Would you like to talk about it?"
"I don't know," she whispered as she sipped the drink. "I don't think I can." He put his arm around her. "Well, I'm here when you think you can." She gave him a wan smile of appreciation, then concentrated on consuming the drink as quickly as possible in hopes of drowning the pain�and erasing the image of that provocative photograph.
She was having her second drink, with Steve patiently waiting for her to open up to him, when he suddenly stiffened and said, "Well, well, guess who's here." Jenny looked up to see Kirk towering above them, face grim as he ignored Steve and directed himself to her. "Let's go where we can talk. Please."
She swallowed past the lump of rage in her throat. "I have nothing to say to you." "Well, there are some things I have to clear up with you. I called your cabin, and when you didn't answer I thought you might be here since it's the only place open." Steve cried, "Hey, buddy. You heard the lady. She doesn't want to talk to you. Now beat it." Kirk regarded him coolly. "Stay out of this, sir. Please. It's between me and Miss Denton."
"Oh, yeah?" Steve got to his feet. "Well, I'll just bet this ship has rules against crew members annoying passengers." "Sir, I don't want any trouble," Kirk said to him. "I'm just trying to clear up a misunderstanding."
"Yeah, well, we'll see about that." Steve hurried away to find someone with whom to lodge his complaint before Jenny had a chance to stop him. She didn't want trouble. She stood and started to walk away, but Kirk caught her arm. "Listen to me, please. The officer you bumped into called me on the bridge to tell me you seemed upset and thought it might have been because you saw him taking that woman into his cabin. I can't control what he does, or any other officer, and---" "It doesn't make any difference," she snapped. "You're all alike, anyway." "Because he runs around on his wife?" he countered, bewildered. "Jenny, you're an intelligent woman, and you know there are men who'll be unfaithful to their wives regardless of their profession. You can't judge me because of him. I'm not married!" "But you lied to me," she said through clenched teeth. "You're nothing but a womanizer, Kirk Moen. I saw your letters from all those women. I saw that picture of your naked girlfriend."
His brows crawled into his forehead. "You did? Well, I can explain if you will only give me a chance."
"Explain what? First, you don't tell me who you really are, because you're worried I might be a gold-digger. Then you tell me there's nobody special, and I stumble across your cache of�of fan letters!" she hotly stammered. "So there is nothing to explain. I was just another cruise groupie to you. But no more! I never want to see you again. Just leave me alone! And if it means I don't get the contract with Valhalla, so be it."
She jerked free of him and ran out to see Steve in the lobby on a house phone, furiously demanding that someone connect him with the Captain, because he had a complaint about one of the officers making a scene in the Disco. Jenny slammed down the button on the phone to disconnect. "There's no need for this. Let it go, please. I don't need the embarrassment."
Steve argued, "But he needs to be reported, Jenny."
She glared at him. "It's not your concern, Steve, and I'm asking you to please stay out of it. Besides, it doesn't matter anymore. It's over. Just let it be." She hurried back to her cabin and threw herself across her bed. Kirk, she bitterly mused, collected women like some people collect stamps or miniatures. He was an officer on a love boat, and he played the game and played it well. But she had taken it all seriously and was furious with herself for letting her emotions run away with her. It was another bitter lesson she had learned, but then she had not been wise to the ways of FantasyLand.
Yet, despite her reasoning and rationalizing, Jenny knew there was one undeniable truth--she did love Kirk--and it would take a long time, if ever, to forget him.
To be continued...
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